The best way for students to stay energized during long study sessions is by eating fruits, vegetables and proteins, said health and human performance professor Tracy Ledoux.
In an interview with The Cougar, she shared tips on the best ways students can handle their nutrition during finals.
The Cougar: What are some good food and beverage options students should eat to stay fueled during a long study session for finals?
Tracy Ledoux: Some good foods to eat while studying and needing to stay energized for a long period of time, anytime you want to sustain your fullness for a while, you want to make sure you have a nice balance of foods that have a lot of vitamins and minerals. So things like fruits and vegetables, and then also things that are going to keep you full so a little bit a protein, a little bit of fat and probably some fiber.
So, fruits and vegetables with a little bit of whole grain, either some kind of cheese or dairy to add to that will add some protein or fat. Or some kind of meat, like meat in a sandwich or salad. But a nice balance of vitamins, minerals, protein fiber and that should keep you full and energized for a good while.
TC: What are some food and beverage options students should avoid?
Ledoux: Of course, caffeine is something a lot of students rely on when they are needing to study and focus their attention, maybe not getting so much sleep during the finals week. But in general, you should probably be careful with caffeine. While it will give you a lot of energy in a short burst, you can crash quickly thereafter and that’s counter productive.
Along with that, things that are high in sugar without a lot of protein or fiber to help balance it out will give you that blood sugar crash. So you have candy or cake or sweets or something. Yeah, you’ll get really full and give you a burst of energy to start with, it will quickly throw you into a blood sugar crash and make you tired and crabby and really hungry.
TC: A lot of students at this time start missing meals, is that OK?
Ledoux: Not a good idea to skip meals, especially if you are trying to concentrate and study. Because when you’re hungry, you are distracted. When you are hungry, your brain actually will pay more attention to food cues in the environment and food will be more preoccupying and distracting to you, which means you’re not fully paying attention to your school work.
Minimizing the opportunity to be hungry is probably the best idea for the highest concentration ability. With that you want to carry snacks, granola bars, piece of fruit (banana is a pretty dense fruit that will fill you up), smoothies, milkshakes, those will fill you up and be kind of quick on the go.
TC: Is it good for students to exercise when they can during finals?
Ledoux: For sure, exercising gets your blood flowing and gives you energy after the fact. Probably more than anything, it helps you manage your stress levels and helps you stay calm and think clearly. Exercise should definitely be part of anyone’s health strategy on a day to day basis.
It certainly helps on the days and weeks you have higher demands placed on you.
TC: Any other tips for students?
Ledoux: Sleep goes hand-in-hand with nutrition and physical activity. I know finals week is a time of not getting enough sleep, but it’s really important for maintaining your immune function, not getting sick, being able to concentrate and pay attention, maximizing your ability to learn and retain information and staying metabolically healthy. It helps your blood sugars stay in balance and helps all of your systems work optimally.